How to Survive in the Spanish Workplace
It's crucial that you are aware of your surroundings. And your surroundings, for the most part, will be Spanish.
From the Miami Relocation Guide.
After weeks of waiting tables and sending out resumes, you finally got the call for an interview in a field in which you want to work. It took a while, and if you have to roll one more set of silverware you are going to crack. So you’d better make the most of this opportunity. While many universities and other websites offer comprehensive advice on what to do when interviewing for a job in America, none of them ever consider the fact that some American cities, like, oh, say, Miami for instance, may throw you some curveballs you were not prepared for. Such as an interview never starting when it is supposed to. Or a person interviewing you who’s first language is not English. So where Wharton and Harvard failed you, we will pick up the slack. Because without unique preparation for the business world that is South Florida, you may find yourself doing sidework for a lot longer than you had anticipated.
Without getting too controversial here, a lot is made in the media about people hiring people who are like them. This is usually used to explain affirmative action programs and is more often than not mentioned in reference to Anglos hiring other Anglos. But in Miami, it is not the Anglos doing the hiring. The people in charge are very often going to be Latino.
For better or for worse this is an undeniable fact of working in Dade County. The person interviewing you, unless you are Hispanic, will most likely be of a different culture. This is not an obstacle many Anglos consider when working in Cleveland or Syracuse, but it is something you must be cognizant of when applying for a job in Miami. I’m not saying change the name at the top of your resume to one that ends in Z, but you may want to make yourself more appealing to potential Latin interviewers. This may, again, include some knowledge of Spanish, an at least feigned appreciation for Latin Culture (Google “Sabado Gigante” and that can be a good start) or as little as walking in with a Café Cubano and some pastelitos. Discussing race and hiring in the same section is often considered taboo, but in Miami you must be aware of your surroundings. And in this town, your surroundings mostly speak Spanish.
Hispanic culture also dictates that nothing should ever start when it is formally scheduled. This is vastly frustrating to most people not familiar with it, especially when showing up for a job interview. You will rarely begin your interview within half an hour of the scheduled time, but you still must show up then on the off chance your interviewer is running on schedule. Do not get impatient or think the interviewer has forgotten about you if he doesn’t call you into his office for a while. This is just one of thousands of cultural abnormalities you must understand if you plan to reside in Miami.
5 TIPS FOR DRESSING IN THE WORKPLACE
NOT EVERY CONVERSATION IN SPANISH IS MAKING FUN OF YOU. BUT IT MIGHT BE
In the previous section, I mentioned that the person interviewing you would likely be of a different culture than you if you are not Latino. But this will hold true of your peers as well. There will be many occasions where you will be sitting in the office break room and the usual banal office chit chat about kids and pets and who is sleeping with whom will all be done in Spanish. Many of you probably see this as a godsend as you will not be subjected to the ridiculous office banter that forces more and more of us into telecommuting, but eventually you may start to feel left out. So here are some topics you may bring up around the refrigerator de agua.
These are just starting points and you can work your way in to any of these conversations at will. Your coworkers will immediately switch to speaking in English, or at least a hybrid Spanglish, when you enter the conversation thus ensuring they are not saying nasty things about you in another language. And while every non-Spanish speaker is convinced every Spanish conversation is something derogatory about them, I know from experience this is more often not the case than it is. So relax and enjoy not understanding a word anyone says.
Problems can occur, however, when supervisors give instructions in Spanish and assume you understood. As in your boss, Diaz, says to your coworker, Gonzalez, “Neccecito que escribas los Reportas de TPS otra vez. Antes de las 5.” He looks at you, nods, and then moves on. Well Gonzalez may have understood his boss’ request to have the TPS reports written again before 5, but what you heard may as well have been “I’m going over to La Carreta for Lunch? You want some Ropa Vieja?” So you went on reading celebrity gossip and looking for flights back to Portland and guess who didn’t get their TPS reports done on time? You.
And now Gonzalez gets promoted and you are still stuck in the break room listening to Mirta drone on and on about her niece’s Qunce. Now, does this happen a lot? No, but it does occur. So if a supervisor says anything in Spanish to a coworker, make sure you ask him to repeat it in English so you do not get left in the dark.
This actually is an issue you can legitimately take up with your supervisor as many find it easier to converse in Spanish and will forget that you may not understand them. Most are very understanding about it and, at the very least, will send out a memo asking that office conversations be held in English. The memo, however, is typically written in Spanish.
Office politics and all joking aside, interviewing and working in Miami is not something many Americans are prepared for the reality of. It is an experience few expect and even less can deal with for very long. For better or for worse, it is a reality you must accept if you plan on relocating to Miami, and if it is not something you mind then you may find residing here to be quite enjoyable. Just remember that down here, you may not speak the same language as the people making decisions, the people appointed over you and the people with whom you converse every day. But don’t worry when you hear them talking in a manner you don’t understand. It’s really not all about you.
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